2014 is now in the dustbin. We have a brand new year, and have only just clawed off its wrappings. There hasn’t been time for it to get scuffed or grimy yet. Everything seems new, and full of possibility. It’s exciting and a little scary.
Starting a new book or story can be a little like that too. The possibilities crowd into my head, but sometimes there are so many I can’t think straight. It’s as if lots of different stories are shouting all at once, wanting to be written.
I know I need a good first line – one with punch. I know I need a first page that will drag the reader in to my story like a whirlpool. And so I write a beginning to my story… and delete it again. Write and delete. Over and over. The screen stares at me disapprovingly.
Often the only way I can get unstuck is to promise myself that I’ll come back and change the beginning later. And I do, every time. The funny thing is, once I’ve finished writing the book it’s much easier to see what the beginning should look like.
Here are a few of my favourite opening lines from other people’s books.
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” (I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith)
“Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda.” (The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber)
“Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” (Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman.)
What’s your favourite first line from a book?